Soldiers deploy to state of Assam after 31 Muslims are shot dead, in worst religious violence incident in two years.
Relatives of those killed in India’s northeastern Assam state have refused to bury their dead, demanding that the state’s chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, visit their area, according to local media reports.
On Saturday, authorities called in the army to restore order after suspected Bodo separatists killed at least 32 people from the minority Muslim community in two days of violence that began late on Thursday.
“Does our life have no value? We are only demanding that we are protected and we are not attacked and killed in future,” villagers of Nankekhadrabari in Baksa district told reporters on Sunday, according to English daily Times of India.
The district administration instead of providing violence-hit people security and protection, is now threatening to arrest us if we do not perform the last rites of our dead
“The district administration instead of providing violence-hit people security and protection, is now threatening to arrest us if we do not perform the last rites of our dead,” the villagers alleged.
Rasida Khatum, who was injured in one attack, said the attackers made her and other 30-40 people stand on the riverside before they started shooting at them.
“I somehow managed to escape with my child, but they shot dead three people in front of my eyes, though many others have died too”, she said from a hospital bed.
Police said on Sunday that had they killed three suspected rebels and arrested eight forest guards for alleged involvement in the killings.
Two rebels were killed in a dense forest near Tejpur district, while the third was killed in an exchange of fire in Udalguri district, AP news agency reported.
An indefinite curfew is under way in the wake of the violence blamed on rebels from the Bodo tribe, who have long accused Muslim residents of sneaking into India illegally from neighbouring Bangladesh.
Tensions have been high since a local Bodo leader criticised Muslims for not voting for the Bodo candidate, said Lafikul Islam Ahmed, leader of a Muslim youth organisation called the All Bodoland Muslim Students’ Union.
Rebels from the National Democratic Front of Bodoland-S, who have been fighting for a separate homeland, are believed to have started the mayhem in twin districts of Baksa and Kokrajhar from May 1, the Times of India reported.
Thousands of people have fled their homes for safety.
Meanwhile, curfew in neighbouring Chirang district was relaxed for six hours from 10 am Sunday, district administration said.
The five-week general election has exacerbated friction over migration in Assam. Candidates, including prime ministerial front-runner, Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party have called for tighter border controls.
Modi on Sunday reiterated his strong stance against illegal immigrants even as people were grieving from the latest attacks.
“You are concerned about infiltrators and not your own people … they must go back, they are robbing the youths of India of their livelihood,” Modi told the rally in West Bengal, which borders Assam.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has condemned the attacks and his ruling Congress party accused Modi of making divisive comments.
“Modi is a model of dividing India,” said Law Minister Kapil Sibal on Saturday.
Critics have long accused the BJP of deep-seated prejudice against India’s Muslims, who make up more than 13 percent of the country’s 1.2 billion population.